Watch your live presentation audience for cues they are engaged.
People in the room will show how they’re feeling through their posture and facial expressions. Keep an eye out for physical cues that they’re engaged in your material. One reason Steve Jobs could maintain a heightened sense of anticipation during a 90-minute keynote is because he elicited physical reactions from the audience. In his 2007 iPhone launch presentation, the audience laughed 79 times and clapped 98 times—that’s almost one physical reaction every 30 seconds.
It’s important to pick up on negative cues, too, so you can change course. Are audience members leaning back with their arms crossed? That could be a sign of resistance. Do they look tired? Are they fidgeting? Looking Around? Checking email? They may be bored or apathetic toward your ideas. If they’re not demonstrating engagement by leaning forward, nodding, smiling, and taking notes, find a way of drawing them in.
There was one conference presenter who could easily tell from body language that he was missing the mark with his audience– people clearly weren’t into his message. Instead of dragging on, he stopped, admitted he’d miscalculated what he prepared, and asked that if he gave them back the hour, that they would invite him to speak at the next conference if he promised to do a better job of understanding their needs.
He got a standing ovation and an invitation to speak at the next conference. And he got a standing ovation the next year too, except this time it was because they loved his talk.